Monday, January 17, 2022

Light Hearted 156 - Bob, Ann, and Dominic Trapani, Owls Head Light Station, Maine

The growing limestone trade in Midcoast Maine led to the establishment of a light station at Owl's Head, at the entrance to Rockland Harbor, in 1825. A tall lighthouse wasn’t necessary because of the height of the promontory. The light is exactly 100 feet above sea level. The present 30-foot brick lighthouse tower replaced the original one in 1852.

Owls Head Lighthouse. Photo by Dominic Trapani (do not use without permission).

The station was automated in 1989 and the last Coast Guard keeper was removed. In December 2007, the lighthouse tower was licensed to the American Lighthouse Foundation (ALF). Then, in late 2012, it was announced that the keeper's house had also been licensed to the American Lighthouse Foundation and that it would serve as the organization's headquarters.

Bob Trapani and daughter Gianna next to the still active fourth-order Fresnel lens in Owls Head Lighthouse.
                      Dominic Trapani                                                Ann Trapani

Bob Trapani, Jr., has served as the executive director of the American Lighthouse Foundation since 2005. As associate director of the American Lighthouse Foundation, Ann Trapani is involved in many aspects of the organization’s operation. Bob and Ann’s son Dominic, at the age of 23, has already established himself as one of the top photographers of the Maine coast.

In this interview, Ann, Dominic, and Bob discuss the special experience of working at Owls Head Lighthouse in all kinds of weather conditions, the photographic beauty of the Penobscot Bay region, and the day to day operation of the interpretive center and gift shop at the light station.

Owls Head Light Station in August 2019. Photo by Jeremy D'Entremont.

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Sunday, February 21, 2021

Light Hearted podcast episode 106 – Tim Bailey, light keeper at Halfway Rock, Maine; photo tips with Mike Leonard

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Halfway Rock is a windswept, rocky ledge far out in Maine’s Casco Bay, about nine miles east of Portland Head. Its name comes from its location about halfway between Cape Elizabeth and Cape Small. A 76-foot granite lighthouse tower was built on the ledge in the summer of 1871. It’s now privately owned and has been restored in recent years.

Halfway Rock, photo by Jeremy D'Entremont

Tim Bailey was born in Gardiner, Maine, but he spent his school years in Connecticut. After graduating from high school, Tim joined the Coast Guard. After his time as a keeper at Halfway Rock (1971-72), he was stationed at Boothbay Harbor, Maine, then   Seguin Light Station off the mouth of the Kennebec River. In this interview, he discusses his experiences at Halfway Rock and Seguin Island. Joining in on the interview is Ford Reiche, the owner of Halfway Rock Lighthouse. 

Photographer Mike Leonard lives in Yarmouth, Maine, and his photography is frequently seen in books and magazines, and in television segments. Mike offers workshops on digital photography, which you can read about on his website at In this installment of “Photo Tips with Mike Leonard” he discusses night photography of lighthouses.

Below: West Quoddy Head Light and Portland Head Light, photos by Mike Leonard.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Light Hearted podcast ep 83 – Tim Pettee and Alex Pettee, Greens Ledge Lighthouse, Connecticut

Greens Ledge is one of several treacherous formations near Norwalk Harbor in Connecticut. Congress appropriated $60,000 for the establishment of a light and fog signal at Greens Ledge in 1899, and the 52-foot lighthouse was finished in 1902. Greens Ledge is a cast-iron tower on a cylindrical cast-iron concrete-filled foundation, typical of offshore “sparkplug” lights built in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Male keepers lived inside the lighthouse tower.

Greens Ledge Lighthouse in 2016. Sheffield Island Lighthouse can be seen in the background.
Photo by Jeremy D’Entremont.

Over the years, especially after the hurricane of September 1938, Greens Ledge Light developed a slight tilt. The lighthouse was automated in 1972 and the last Coast Guard keepers were reassigned. Under the provisions of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, the lighthouse was auctioned in 2016.

Early 1900s postcard of Greens Ledge Lighthouse

Tim Pettee

The high bid was placed by a group of local residents that included Tim Pettee, Alex Pettee, Brendan McGee, and Shannon Holloway. They formed a 501 (c)3 organization, the Greens Ledge Light Preservation Society. The Greens Ledge Light Preservation Society launched a fundraising campaignthat’s raised over $1.7 million through private donations for restoration. Upon completion of restoration, the Greens Ledge Light Preservation Society plans to host educational tours, and plans have been developed for improved boat access.Tim Pettee is the president of the Greens Ledge Light Preservation Society and his son, Alex, is the treasurer. 

Monday, September 21, 2020

Light Hearted podcast episode 81 – Rob Benchley, Sankaty Head Lighthouse (Nantucket, MA)

In 1850, a 53-foot brick lighthouse was built on a high bluff on the southeastern shore of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. With its second-order lens, fisherman knew the light at Sankaty Head as the "blazing star." The tower was moved back from the edge of the rapidly eroding bluff in 2007. 

Rob Benchley at Sankaty Head Lighthouse. Photo by Jeremy D'Entremont.

Rob Benchley at Sankaty Head Lighthouse. Photo by Jeremy D'Entremont. 

Sankaty Head Lighthouse is now owned by the Sconset Trust and its modern day keeper is Rob Benchley, an an accomplished photojournalist and author. 

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Monday, July 20, 2020

U.S. Lighthouse Society Podcast "Light Hearted" episode 72 – Sean Todd, Mount Desert Rock, Maine

More than 20 miles from the nearest port at Mount Desert Island in Maine, low-lying, wave-swept Mount Desert Rock is only about 17 feet above sea level at its highest point. Congress appropriated $5,000 for a lighthouse on Mount Desert Rock on March 2, 1829, to aid mariners heading to Frenchman and Blue Hill Bays from the south. The light went into operation on August 25, 1830. The structure weathered many storms before being replaced by a new 58-foot granite tower in 1847. The new tower was designed by the noted architect Alexander Parris.

Mount Desert Rock Light Station in 2002. Photo by Jeremy D’Entremont.

 The station was automated in late 1977. The light station was then leased to Bar Harbor’s College of the Atlantic for use as a whale watching station. Under the Maine Lights Program, Mount Desert Rock Light Station, along with Great Duck Island Light Station, became the property of the College of the Atlantic in 1998.

The 2019 Marine Mammal class pictured at Mount Desert Rock. In this class, in addition to performing marine mammal research, students learn to run the station.    (College of the Atlantic)
Sean Todd (College of the Atlantic)

Sean Todd is the Steven K. Katona Chair in Marine Sciences at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, and he also directs Allied Whale, the college’s marine mammal research program. He spent ten years in Newfoundland as part of the Whale Disentanglement team, a group that releases large entangled whales from fishing gear. In Maine he is trained as part of a first response team that performs a similar function. Sean also acts as a professional guide, including 14 seasons in the Antarctic and 11 seasons in the Canadian sub-Arctic and Arctic. He created, wrote, and stars in the award-winningLife in the World’s Oceans, a 30-part DVD series available from

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Monday, July 13, 2020

U.S. Lighthouse podcast "Light Hearted" episode 71 – John Anderson, Great Duck Island, Maine

Great Duck Island is more than 200 acres in size and about nine miles south of the much larger Mount Desert Island. The Lighthouse Board recommended a light station on the island in 1885, and funds were appropriated in 1889. The light was established on December 31, 1890, with a 42-foot-tall cylindrical brick tower, three keepers’ dwellings, a fog signal building, and other outbuildings.

Early photo of Great Duck Island Lighthouse; fog signal building to the right.
National Archives image 26-LG-2-32F.

The light was automated in 1986 and the fourth-order Fresnel lens was replaced by a modern optic. The light remains an active aid to navigation, while most of the rest of the island was purchased by the Maine Chapter of the Nature Conservancy in 1984.

A student bands a gull chick at Great Duck Island

In 1998 Great Duck Island Light Station, along with Mount Desert Rock Light Station, became the property of Bar Harbor’s College of the Atlantic under the Maine Lights Program. College of the Atlantic owns approximately 12 acres on Great Duck Island, consisting of the one remaining keeper’s house, two boathouses, and the lighthouse. Students and staff from the college now live in the former keeper’s dwelling much of the year. The College of the Atlantic’s ongoing research projects on the island include the monitoring of the large nesting gull population, as well as detailed study of black guillemots and the nocturnal Leach’s storm petrel.

John Anderson (COA)
John Anderson has been a professor at College of the Atlantic for more than 30 years. He teaches zoology, ecology, and animal behavior, and he’s a W.H. Drury Professor of Ecology and Natural History. He’s a New Zealander by nationality, British by upbringing, and has spent time in the UK, Europe, and the western U.S.

His field research centers around Great Duck Island. He says that he’s interested in the intersection between natural history and human history in relation to long-term ecological processes.

Monday, July 6, 2020

U.S. Lighthouse Society Podcast "Light Hearted" episode 70 - July 6, 2020

Pomham Rocks is a tiny island in the Providence River, about 800 feet from the east shore of the Riverside section of East Providence, Rhode Island. With increased shipping traffic heading toward Providence in the 1800s, Pomham Rocks was an obvious place to establish a navigational aid, and funds were appropriated in 1870. A wooden dwelling with a mansard roof was built on a granite foundation with a hexagonal lighthouse tower on the front center of the building. It was first lighted on December 1, 1871.

The lighthouse was discontinued in 1974 and was replaced by an automatic light on a skeleton tower. In 1980 the General Services Administration sold the property to the Mobil Oil Company, now Exxon Mobil, which has a large refinery and terminal near the lighthouse. Exxon Mobil eventually leased the historic structure at no cost to the American Lighthouse Foundation. A new chapter of the Foundation, the Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse, was announced.

A restoration of the exterior of the building was completed in early 2006, and the navigational light was returned to the lighthouse. Then, in the spring of 2010, Exxon Mobil donated the lighthouse to the American Lighthouse Foundation. Recent work has included the construction of new docking facilities, restoration of the oil house, installation of new fencing, restoration of the lighthouse windows, and restoration of the interior.

Dennis Tardiff (left) was the last
USCG officer in charge at Pomham Rocks Light Station.
(Photo courtesy of Dennis Tardiff)
Dennis Tardiff arrived at Pomham Rocks in April 1971 as a 19-year-old Coast Guard fireman. He left Pomham at the age of 22 as a third class Petty Officer. As one of the last Coast Guard keepers at the station, Dennis lowered the flag on June 5, 1974, when the light was decommissioned. More than four decades after he left Pomham Rocks, Dennis became reacquainted with the lighthouse when he became involved with the restoration project in 2016. Dennis is now the chairperson of the Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse. He was recognized for his efforts with a 2018 volunteerism award from the American Lighthouse Foundation. In this interview, Dennis talks about his days as a Coast Guard light keeper and about the preservation of this jewel among New England lighthouses.